Hiking the 4k footers of Franconia Notch

Emily Veh – SCA NH Corps – Discover the Power of Parks Interpretive Ranger

If you’ve hiked in New Hampshire, you may have heard about New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 footers. The 4,000 footers are a list of 48 peaks that have an elevation of 4,000 feet or higher and prominence of at least 200 feet. Many hikers take on the challenge to hike all 48, and you can reach 7 of these mountains from trails in Franconia Notch State Park.

These hikes are demanding and challenging and not to be taken lightly. If you attempt these hikes make sure you are well prepared. Check out the Hike Safe website (https://hikesafe.com/) for hiking essentials and safety.

Cannon Mountain (4,100’)

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

Trails: Kinsman Ridge OR Lonesome Lake to Kinsman Ridge

Distance: 4 mi (Kinsman Ridge); 6.2 mi (Lonesome Lake)

While Cannon Mountain is one of the shorter 4k footer hikes, don’t let the mileage fool you. The climb up Cannon is steep, but you’ll receive incredible views of Franconia Notch and the Franconia Ridge as you approach the summit. Make sure to go up to the summit observation tower for 360° views.

View looking east at the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Cannon. Photo by Emily Veh

Mount Lafayette (5,261’) & Mount Lincoln (5,089’)

Difficulty: Challenging

Trails: Falling Waters, Franconia Ridge, Greenleaf, Old Bridle Path

Distance: 8.8 mi

Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln are usually hiked together in a loop hike known as the Franconia Ridge Loop. Mount Lafayette is the highest peak along the Franconia Ridge and the highest outside of the Presidential Range. The Franconia Ridge Loop is the most popular hike in Franconia Notch and it’s no surprise. If you get lucky with the weather, this hike will provide you with some of the best views in New Hampshire.

Franconia Ridge Trail from Little Haystack to Mount Lincoln (in the distance). Photo by Emily Veh

To complete the Ridge Loop, begin on the Falling Waters trail. You’ll pass three sets of waterfalls on your way up to Little Haystack. Once you reach Little Haystack, you are on the Franconia Ridge and in the alpine zone! The alpine zone is a very delicate ecosystem with unique plants and animals. It is extremely important that hikers stay on designated trails, for one step off trail in this zone can destroy decades of plant growth. Plant growth is extremely slow in the alpine zone due to the short growing season, and harsh weather conditions in which these plants struggle to survive.

Hikers approaching the summit of Mount Lafayette. Photo by Emily Veh

Continue along the Franconia Ridge trail to the summits of Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette. Descend Lafayette via the Greenleaf Trail toward the AMC Greenleaf Hut. If the hut is open, pop inside for some fresh baked goodies and refill your water before the rest of your hike down. Take Old Bridle Path from the hut back to the trailhead to complete the loop.

Ranger Emily standing at the summit of Mount Lafayette.

North Kinsman (4,293’) & South Kinsman (4,358’)

Difficulty: Challenging

Trails: Lonesome Lake, Fishin’ Jimmy, Kinsman Ridge

Distance: 9 mi

The Kinsmans are another great day hike starting from Franconia Notch. Start out at the Lonesome Lake trailhead at Lafayette Place. Your first views will be at Lonesome Lake. Be sure to stop and enjoy them before heading up the Fishin’ Jimmy trail. North Kinsman has a fantastic lookout with views overlooking the lake and across the notch at Franconia Ridge. South Kinsman’s views are limited by trees, but still worth the hike if you are attempting to summit all 48 4k footers.

Viewpoint from North Kinsman offers great views of the Franconia Ridge and overlooks Lonesome Lake. Photo by Emily Veh

Mount Liberty (4,459’) & Mount Flume (4,328’)

Difficulty: Challenging

Trails: Flume Slide, Franconia Ridge, Liberty Springs Distance: 9.9 mi

There are two ways to attempt Mount Liberty. One is to loop it with Mount Flume by taking the Flume Slide trail up to Mount Flume, then following the Franconia Ridge trail to Mount Liberty, and descending via Liberty Springs. If you attempt to hike this loop, be aware that the Flume Ledges section of the trail is very steep and slippery. Do not attempt this hike if you are unable or unwilling to rock scramble. The other option is to take the Liberty Springs trail and make it an out and back hike.

Mount Liberty offers views of the Franconia ridge and Cannon Mountain. (Photo by Kate Gilligan)

Franconia Notch is a great place to explore hiking the NH 4,000 footers and all 7 peaks offer incredible views (weather permitting). While these hikes are not to be taken lightly, if prepared for, these hikes will create lasting memories.

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Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

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